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This study aims to clarify the concepts of brand and branding in the new Internet environment, as complex processes that can be applied anywhere: to a physical good, a service, a store, an organization, an idea or a place. Assuming that brands have deeper meanings for consumers than the basic characteristics of the product or service being offered, the branding process is also defined in the context of places, in an effort to build a relationship with the customer and make emotional connections. Place branding perspectives are discussed, as it does not involve tourism only. It also involves the economic and socio-political sector as well as the historical perspective of the place.
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov
Series VII: Social Sciences Law Vol. 11 (60) No. 1 - 2018
Abstract: This study aims to clarify the concepts of brand and branding in
the new Internet environment, as complex processes that can be applied
anywhere: to a physical good, a service, a store, an organization, an idea or
a place. Assuming that brands have deeper meanings for consumers than
the basic characteristics of the product or service being offered, the branding
process is also defined in the context of places, in an effort to build a
relationship with the customer and make emotional connections. Place
branding perspectives are discussed, as it does not involve tourism only. It
also involves the economic and socio-political sector as well as the historical
perspective of the place.
Key words: brand, Internet, Cyberspace, place branding.
1. Introduction. Defining the Brand
The term brand derives from an Old Norse word “brandr” which means “to burn”. This
of course references the ancient practice of using heated irons to mark burn livestock
for identification purposes (Maurya and Mishra, 2012, p.122). On the other hand, the
process of “branding has been around for centuries as a means to distinguish the goods
of a producer from those of another” (Kotler apud Willy, 2006, p.274).
Perhaps the earliest instance of branding is the marking of the slaves and criminals in
ancient times for identification purposes. Within this context, branding has been
associated with “power, control, a sign of ownership indicated through marking a brand
physically on the body and property” (Stone and Desmond, 2007, p. 202). The earliest
forms of branding in Europe are considered to be the medieval guilds’ trademarks on
the products. The trademarks would protect both craftsmen and customers from low
quality products (Kotler, 2006, p.274).
Brand is a complex phenomenon. As a result there is a wide range of definitions
explaining it. According to the American Marketing Association a brand is a “name, term,
sign, symbol, or design, or o combination of them, intended to identify the goods or
services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of
competitors” (Kotler, 2006, p.274). The Business Dictionary defines brand as a “unique
1 Transilvania University of Braşov,
2 Transilvania University of Braşov,
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov Series VII Vol. 11 (60) No. 1 - 2018
design, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an imagine that
identifies a product and differentiates it from the competitors. Over time this imagine
becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality and satisfaction in customer’s
mind” (The Business Dictionary,
definition/brand.html, accessed on 20.01.2018). Michael Baker states that “brands are
clusters of functional and emotional values which promise stakeholders unique
experiences” (Baker, 2003, p.372).
Considering the various definitions on brand used in the literature, De Chernatony and
Riley conducted a content analysis research regarding it. As a result, 12 main themes
were identified as definitions of brand: a legal instrument, a logo, a company, a
shorthand, a risk reducer, an identity system, an imagine in consumer’s minds, a value
system, a personality, a relationship, an adding value and an evolving entity (De
Chernatony and Riley, 1998, p.418).
According to the specific process involved, “Branding can be applied virtually
anywhere a consumer has a choice. It is possible to brand a physical good, a service, a
store, a person, an organization, or an idea” (Kotler, 2006, p.276). Brands are
omnipresent therefore they can be found in almost every aspect of our lives: economic,
social, cultural, sporting and even religion (Maurya and Mishra, 2012, p.122).
A brand is a product or service that adds dimensions in order to differentiate it from
other products or services that are created to satisfy the same need. These differences
can be either related to the product performance of brand: functional, rational or
tangible, or related to what the brand represents: symbolic, emotional and intangible
(Kotler, 2006, p.274). The ultimate aim for brands is to “create something distinctive
that is able to command a higher price and hence ensure future sales and profits”
(Rubinstein and Griffiths, 2001, p.395).
In order to brand a product it is essential to teach the consumers “who” the product
is, “what” it does and “why” they should care. It involves “creating mental structures
and helping consumers organize their knowledge about products and services in a way
that clarifies their decision making and, in the process, provide value to the firm”
(Kotler, 2006, p.276). Branding has been considered as one of the fundamental
elements for a successful business. Brands have deeper meanings for consumers than
the basic characteristics of the product or service being offered. Therefore “strong
brands translate into real equity and sustained profitability” (Rubinstein and Griffiths,
2001, p.395).
2. Cyberspace
The term cyberspace was first introduced into the English language by Williams Gibson
in his science fiction novel, Neuromancer, in 1984. According to the author, cyberspace
represents a “consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate
operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic
representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human
system” (Cotton and Oliver, 1994 apud Bryant, 2001, p.139). However, the present
connotation of the word has changed significantly.
V.-A. BRICU et al.: Characteristics of Brands and Place Branding on the Internet
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cyberspace refers to the “Internet considered
as an imaginary area without limits where you can meet people and discover
information about any subject: You can find the answer to almost any question in
cyberspace” (Cambridge Dictionary, english/
cyberspace, accessed on 24.12.2017). Although this definition is not completely
accurate, it does point out several characteristics of cyberspace: its non-physicality, its
social dimension and its functionality. Andrew Vande Moere claims that the term
cyberspace is technically unimportant since there are other phrases used synonymously:
the Internet, the digital domain, computer networking, data space, the informational
sphere etc. However, this form connotes automation, artificial control and
computerization as well as a multidimensional place (Vande, 1998, p.5)
Rebecca Bryant defines cyberspace as “the new medium of communication, electronic
communication, which is fast outmoding, or even replacing more traditional methods of
communication” (Bryant, 2001, p.139). David Holmes claims that cyberspace is “a global
space inhabited everyday” (Holmes, 2001, p.6). The particular characteristics of
cyberspace are represented by its space, that it can only be entered by specially
designed devices and that it enables communication between individuals mostly
independent of time and space (Vande, 1998, p.11).
The first distinctive feature of the cyberspace is its spatiality. Numerous people
consider that the space can be either physical either non-physical (in our case virtual).
Despite this general belief, specialists in the filed try their very best to explain why
cyberspace cannot be perceived as being only virtual or only physical. Their conclusion is
that cyberspace is only partially physical therefore it represents a different kind of
In the ordinary language, the physical space is determined by its relationship with the
human body because it represents the space in which human bodies move and interact
with one another. The physical space is a space “for the body, perceived and occupied
by the body and in many respects directing the movements of the body” (Saco, 2002,
p.25). By extension, virtual is only non-physical because it is something unopened to
unmediated perception. The term physical, in general, is understood as a phenomenon
that can be perceived by sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing. However, this
understanding of physical is utterly wrong considering the numerous phenomena of the
physical existence that cannot be directly perceived by the human body such as gravity.
From a conventional point of view, virtual represents only a non-physical space and it
is understood as anything that is in digital form: “combinations of binary programming
codes and electrical impulses that make up the bulk of the invisible data traversing
computercircuits and network routes” (Saco, 2002, p.25). While these data may include
simulations of something that conventionally is physical, it can only exist in a digital form
therefore virtual can only be non-physical. From a technical point of view, virtual refers
to “a digital representation of something else, typically something that does or will exist
in the physical world” (Saco, 2002, p.24).
Regarding the issue of space, Rebecca Bryant says that we should have in mind two
aspects of the cyberspace. “On the one hand, we have virtual reality a 3-D cyberspatial
environment which humans can “enter” and “move things”, interacting with both the
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov Series VII Vol. 11 (60) No. 1 - 2018
computer and other human beings. One the other hand, we have the slightly less
dramatic, but more utilitarian, world of networks of computers linked via cables and
routers (similar to telephone connections) which enable us to communicate, store and
retrieve information” (Bryant, 2001, pp.139-140). Andrew Vande states that cyberspace
is a virtual place that is both real and artificial at the same time therefore by definition
not a physical location and it can be considered as a “digital complement of our atomic
world” (Vande, 1998, p.11). The biggest difference between cyberspace and physical
space is that it involves an electromagnetic force rather than a mechanical one. As a
result of this it has different physical proprieties.
Cyberspace has a geography of its own, made of networks and nodes in which process
information travels from the places where it is enerated and managed. “The resulting
space of flows is a new form of space, characteristic of the Information Age, but it is not
placeless: it links places by telecommunicated computer networks and computerized
transportation systems. It redefines distance but does not cancel geography” (Castells,
2001, p.207). Cyberspace has become a global space that is inhabited everyday by a
large number of people.
As I mentioned earlier, the second characteristic of the cyberspace is that it can only
be entered through special physical access devices “with an artificial processing
mechanism, such as digital computing power and/or software that is joined with other
access devices on a network of physical connection…without an access device, there is
no distinction between cyberspace and communications in the real world” (Vande,
1998, p.11).
The virtual space can be entered only through a physical interface such as “personal
computers, monitors, keyboards, pointing devices, microphones, video cameras,
modems, network interface cards, servers, routers, switches, telephone lines, coaxial
cables, optical fibre cables, radio towers, communications satellites, and, increasingly,
handheld computers and Internet-ready cell phones” (Saco, 2002, p.26). Moreover,
these are not the only physical components that represent the minimum condition
necessary for the existence of the virtual space. Currents of binary data such as
electricity, pulses of light and microwaves that flow in and out of them and form
computer networks are themselves physical.
Last but not least, the third characteristic of the cyberspace is its social dimension. To
be noted that originally the computer was designed and used for its capacity of a
processor. However, in the 1990’s, when the fascination with information technology
occurred, the computer started to function as a “communication and social
environment, rather than its capacity as a processor” (Holmes, 2001, p.58). Without this
element, now it is impossible to understand the Internet. In fact, Rebecca Bryant states
that cyberspace represents “the new medium of communication, electronic
communication, which is fast outmoding, or even replacing, more traditional methods of
communication” (Bryant, 2001, pp.139).
Once it became the new medium of communication, cyberspace had to combat claims
regarding the rising of new patterns of social interaction. Manuel Castells responds to
these claims saying that “social interaction on the Internet does not seem to have a
different effect on the patterning of everyday lifestyle, generally speaking, except for
V.-A. BRICU et al.: Characteristics of Brands and Place Branding on the Internet
adding on-line interaction to existing social relationships” (Castells, 2001, p.119). Diana
Saco states that “networking practices and orders are related as well to a variety of lived
practices through which the spatiality of cyberspace is culturally experienced” (Saco,
2002, p.28). There are numerous practices online that represent extensions of face to
face practices such as: homepages on websites that signify an arrival somewhere,
participating in forums that signify being part of a community, e-mail “courtship” and so
Cyberspace enables interaction and communication between individuals mostly
independent of time and space. “The sense of immediacy that apparently results from
interactions in cyberspace is in fact artificial at best, since these human communications
almost always lack similarity of place, and usually also happen in a shifted and different
time” (Vande, 1998, p.11). In contrast to normal interactions, cyberspace interactions
are usually indirect, delayed in time or separated by distance.
In order to understand better the new forms of social interaction on cyberspace one
should build on a definition of community, de-emphasizing its cultural component,
emphasizing its supportive role to individuals and families, and de-linking its social
existence from a single kind of material support” (Castells, 2001, p.127). In sociology,
communities are based on the sharing of values and social organization. In this new
context they represent “networks of interpersonal ties that provide sociability, support,
information, a sense of belonging, and social identity” (Wellman, 2001 apud Castells,
2001, p.127).
The Internet has an enormous impact on a wide range set of practices. These include
changes in “interpersonal communication, sociality, and community: in courtship and
romantic relationships and even in divorce; in surveillance and privacy issues; in
grassroots social movements and campaign politics; in education, literature, authorship,
and readership; in class politics; in statecraft; and most profoundly in potential changes
to the construction and presentation of self” (Saco, 2002, p.9).
3. Online Branding
As a result of the Internet and its related interactive technologies a dramatic change
has occurred in the brandsphere. However, the fundamental principles of branding
continue to be the same. Rubinstein claims that “the core principles of branding are the
same online as they are offline; it is just that on the Internet the brand transactions are
more transparent and immediate” (Rubinstein, 2002, p.39).
The first executional difference online in branding is regarding the presentation of the
brand because “people do not read electronic content the same way as they read print
publications” (De Chernatony, 2000, p.187). On the Internet customers scan the
information rather than read it.
Continuing the offline vs online discussion, “Old fashion marketing and branding that
focused on communication was one way. The product was made and then the
customers were informed; there was no opportunity for a discussion” (Rubinstein, 2002,
p.37). The former marketing model of communication is no longer working because the
Internet is an interactive medium. Thanks to the Internet, consumers feel empowered to
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov Series VII Vol. 11 (60) No. 1 - 2018
communicate not only with the brand but also with other consumers (Christodoulides,
2009, pp.141-142). Because of the Internet’s interactive and community building
potential, the customer has greater power and extended influence over other customers
than in any other medium (Ind and Riondino, 2001, p.8).
In the traditional model of branding, the brand manager tries to control everything. He
or she creates a specific brand imagine and communicates how great and wonderful the
brand is. In case of emerging voices that state otherwise he or she tries to suppress
them. Now, in the post Internet era, the role of the brand manager is no longer to
control the imagine of the brand (to be the “guardian” of the brand) but to facilitate the
sharing of the content instead (to be the “host” of the brand). Thanks to this, the power
is now shifted to the consumers (Christodoulides, 2009, pp.141-142).
One of the main advantages of a two-way communication is that it allows brands to:
receive accurate feedback from customers, deal with customers problems directly and
shortly as well as thank them for their loyalty (Rubinstein, 2002, p.39). Frequent
feedback translates into better understanding of the customer. “Branding in the Internet
era involves building relationships, enabling interactivity, better tailored offerings and
facilitates the creating and sharing of user generated content” (Christodoulides, 2009,
Because companies can no longer tell the consumers what they should think about the
brand due to the emergence of the Internet, the key for success is to “consider all the
relationships that the brand has with stakeholders (customers, employees, partners, the
financial community etc.) and to understand what is valuable in those relationships and
make an emotional connection with each group about the things that they value”
(Rubinstein, 2002, p.36). Hence, branding is no longer just about imagine and
advertising. Firstly, branding is about understanding the customer’s real needs and
developing a product or service that meets these needs. It is about creating a brand
promise around these elements and then living up to it. Secondly, branding is about
what companies stand for. It is about what they say and what they do because it affects
directly the employees, the people that deliver the brand to, thus being the ones that
should believe in it the most (Rubinstein, 2002, p.38).
The interactive feature of the Internet should be capitalized by the branding managers
because “the web enables companies to engage in a more immediate and unfiltered
dialogue with its publics, thus improving greatly the quality of the exchange of
communication and information between the organization and its audiences and
thereby potentially creating the basis for a stronger and more durable relationship” (Ind
and Riondino, 2001, p.13). Online brands can address the following audiences: the
consumers, the business partners, the employees, the investors, the communities and
the Government (Hwang, McMillan and Lee, 2003, p.16).
Branding matters more on the Internet because all the activities that represent the
brand promise are more transparent and much faster online. The brand promise starts
with the way potential customers are targeted leading up to accessing the brand’s
website. The website should be easy and quick to navigate; it should not take much time
for registration and definitely not ask for unnecessary information; assure the customer
that the financial transaction is safe and private and that the goods bought will be
V.-A. BRICU et al.: Characteristics of Brands and Place Branding on the Internet
delivered on time. In case of any problems encountered, the sales service should be
exemplary (Rubinstein and Griffiths, 2001, p.397).
Internet is all about thinking outside the box and breaking the rules. However certain
rules must be followed such as: having a clear customer promise, understanding the
customer and deciding what role the Internet is going to play. The following factors are
very important for having a successful online brand: “delivering a consistent brand
experience, integrating all the expressions of the brand, establishing brand awareness
and measuring every new initiative against the brand” (Rubinstein and Griffiths, 2001,
p.400). On top of these, brand managers should “ensure their brand’s positioning is
razor sharp and to encourage search engine owners to develop more consumer-focused
engines” (De Chernatony, 2000, p.188).
So, from this perspective, a website can have the following functions: communicate
about the company only, communicate about the brand only, sales only, communicate
about the company and brand, communicate about the company and sales or
communicate about the company, brand and sales (Hwang, McMillan and Lee, 2003,
p.15). The best websites are characterized by consistency, interesting content and easy
technical features. “A website should be dynamic, up to date and continuously enriched
with new content. It should embody an organization’s personality and display
consistency in terms of both visual cues and content. It should orient visitors and
provide easy-to-use navigation to help people from one area to another” (Ind and
Riondino, 2001, p.12). Instant recognition is also a very important element for online
brands. This can be achieved by visual consistency: “The logo of the brand must be
clearly visible in every section of the website in order to make it clearly recognizable and
reinforce the brand identity” (Ind and Riondino, 2001, p.12). Even though an easy-to-use
website and great technical features are very important for brands online, the most
important component is undoubtedly the communication. Customers question the
messages sent and the values promoted by the brand. They do not respect companies
that do not engage in dialogue, refuse to share information or accept criticism (Ind and
Riondino, 2001, p.14).
4. Defining Place Branding in More than a Tourism Context
The term “tourism” is subject to a diversity of meanings and interpretations because it
designates a variety of concepts. Tourism is studied as part of a wide range of
disciplines: Geography, Economics, Business and Marketing, Sociology, Anthropology,
History and Psychology and therefore “the differing conceptual structures within these
disciplines lead inevitably to contrasts in perspective and emphasis” (Williams, 1998,
According to the World Tourism Organization tourism is “a social, cultural and
economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places
outside their usual environment for personal or business/ professional purposes” (The
World Tourism Organization, docpdf/
glossaryterms.pdf, accessed on 18.02.2018). Greg Ringer says that “tourism is, after all,
essentially about making available a diverse range of geographical locations to potential
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov Series VII Vol. 11 (60) No. 1 - 2018
visitors and thereby translating those locations into tourist destinations” (Ringer, 1998,
Williams states that tourism is “viewed as a composite concept involving not just
temporary movement of people to destinations that are removed from their normal
place of residence, but, in addition, the organization and conduct of their activities and
of the facilities and services that are necessary for meeting their needs” (Williams, 1998,
p.3). Another definition claims that tourism is “an activity that takes place when, in
international term, people cross borders for leisure or business and stay at least 24
hours but less than one year” (Mill and Morison, 1998 apud Pender and Sharpley, 2005,
p.4). The main characteristics of a tourist destination are represented by its spatial
distinctiveness and cultural particularities. Local agencies try their best to attract a large
number of tourists by showcasing these elements. Marketing a place as an attractive
tourist destination using advertisement, brochures, press releases and travel agencies
promotions is essential (Ringer, 1998, p.30). Greg Ringer notes that in tourist
promotions, places are represented in a kind of patois “the sunshine cost”, “the city of
discovery”, “the cultural capital” etc.) in order to create spatial identity. These epithets
represent a set of traits specific to that place, “they insinuate dreams and myths into the
public perception of place which may come, in time, to stand, like icons, logos or
mottos, as shorthand statements of their character” (Ringer, 1998, p.19).
Relatively new to the field, the concept of place branding has gained prominence only
since 1998. Despite occurring only in recent years, it has soon become a “powerful tool
to gain competitive advantage, as it improves the development of a region or country
not only in terms of leisure and tourism, but also in terms of attracting investment, new
residents, jobs and skilled migrants” (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.311).
Place branding has become more than a phenomenon, it has become a necessity that
is provoked mainly by “globalization processes where the market place for ideas,
culture, reputation, in addition to products, services and funds are fusing into a single
global community” (Hanna and Rowley, 2007, p.63). Anholt claims that “when most
people talk about place branding, they aren’t usually talking about giving a name or a
symbol to a place because places already have names and many already have symbols:
they are talking about doing something to enhance the brand imagine of the place:
place branding is believed to be a way of making places famous” (Anholt, 2010, p.7).
The concept of place branding refers to “branding and building brand equity in
relation to national, regional and/or local (or city) identity. Brand equity is built through:
brand loyalty; name awareness; perceived quality; brand associations in addition to
perceived quality; and, other proprietary brand assets - trademarks, channel
relationships” (Govers and Go, 2009, pp.16-17). It is to be noted that place branding
provides the foundation for policies that pursue development as well as it serves “as a
conduit through which residents can identify themselves with their city” (Alonso and
Bea, 2012, p.314).
According to Alonso and Bae, place branding represents the bridge that unites the
place’s identity (the distinctive and particular cultural, historical, political, religious traits
of a place) with the place’s imagine (the perception of a place through communication
and experience) and the place’s reputation (how the place itself is, what’s to be
V.-A. BRICU et al.: Characteristics of Brands and Place Branding on the Internet
perceived). “Place branding means creating, maintaining and enhancing a brand. Place
branding helps attract tourists, investors, residents or other resources to the place,
which puts such concept into practice (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.313). Similarly, Govers
and Go state that the bridge gap between the identity, image and experience gap is
filled by place branding because it can be used to “mobilize value-adding partnerships
and networks among public and private actors in order to build a coherent product
offering (which includes tourism, trade, temporary employment and investment
opportunities), communicated in the right way in order to guarantee the emotion-laden
place experience that consumers are seeking(Govers and Go, 2009, p.17).
Place branding does not involve tourism only. It also involves the economic and socio-
political sector as well as the historical perspective of the place. Place branding
represents “a group of initiatives with which social and economic value is generated
through the reputation and perception of a place, as well as being a tool of integration
and projection” (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.313). The reputation of a place is formed
through a broad number of activities such as: tourism promotion, export brands,
government policies, the performance of the country’s leaders on the international
scene the approach towards investors and the attraction of skilled workers.
Due to the fact that brand image represents the perception of a brand in people’s
minds, people create their own mental image of a place by 3 areas of contact: “firstly,
perceptions and images obtained through accumulated experiences; secondly, various
forms of place representation such as films, novels, paintings and news reports: and
thirdly, the impacts of deliberate policy interventions such as planning and urban
design” (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.313). On the grounds that cities compete against each
other in order to attract “tourism, investment and talent, as well as to achieve many
other objectives, the concepts of brand strategy are increasingly adopted from the
commercial world and applied in pursuit of urban development, regeneration and
quality of life” (Dinnie, 2011, p.3). According to Alonso and Bae, an effective place brand
strategy is to have the desired brand place’s image matching with the reality of the
place. This image should be attractive, plausible, simple and most importantly distinctive
(Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.314).
Place branding faces a large number of challenges, the biggest one revolves around
the issue of “how to develop a strong umbrella brand that is coherent across a range of
different areas of activity with different target audiences, whilst at the same time
enabling sector-specific brand communications to be created” (Dinnie, 2011, p.5). The
target audience includes a wide range of people: the residents, the potential investors,
the international stakeholders etc. In order to build a strong place brand “a clear set of
brand attributes that the city possesses and which can form the basis for engendering
positive perceptions of the city across multiple audiences” should be identified (Dinnie,
2011, p.5). The best place brand attributes are the ones that powerfully express the
unique character of the place. As the globalization process has led up to a cultural
homogenization, nowadays cities compete with each other in order to obtain
differentiation so that they can acquire competitive advantages. The competition
between them is extremely hard, so original and creative ideas in place branding are
crucial (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.315).
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov Series VII Vol. 11 (60) No. 1 - 2018
5. Place Branding on the Internet
Nowadays the most important influence in decision making in most markets for
customers is represented by the information found online. According to Alonso and Bae
“the possibilities offered by the use of the Internet for city management not only as a
channel of distribution but also as a communication channel for urban market have
already proved their effectiveness” (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.315).
The Internet has made possible a more varied and detailed form of information for
destination places: cities, regions and countries than it had ever existed before. Because
the Internet is an interactive medium, it enables social communication through forums,
blogs, social networks and so on. As a result, the visibility of place brands has increased
noticeably (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.316). “Websites are fundamental tools for
communication for place brands. They persuade, convince, help in decision making and
finally allow making reservations and purchases” (Alonso and Bea, 2012, p.315). The
official website of a destination is useful for travelers “at the time of exploration and
selection of the destination, in the planning stage of the journey, when booking services,
during the visit and in the subsequent phase” (Alonso and Bea, 2012, pp.315-316).
An important aspect of the destination’s website is symbolized by its aesthetics.
Aesthetics can be divided into two main categories: classical and expressive. While,
classical aesthetics applied to websites translates into visual clarity (clean, clear and
symmetrical), expressive aesthetics applied to websites translates into originality and
creativity (special effects and sophistication). Website aesthetics include: pictures, colors
and graphical layouts. These items may enhance “visual appeal and information transfer
(e.g. attraction photographs, logos and slogans; colors that match logos; destination-
related backgrounds; online video clips; newsletters and brochures) and visitor’s
experience and website reliability (e.g. site map, home buttons, search tools,
memorable URL, non-graphical version, accurate links, correct spelling, clear and
readable text and organized layout)”. They are visual elements that are meant to raise
interests in the traveler (Luna-Nevarez and Hyman, 2012, p.95).
A great destination website should be attractive, organized and consistent in style,
colors and language. In addition, it should use distinctive hot buttons; proper graphics,
fonts, colors, page length and multimedia; have a graphic-text balance and use good
labeling (Luna-Nevarez and Hyman, 2012, p.95).
6. Conclusions
In conclusion, branding is a complex phenomenon that can be applied anywhere: to a
physical good, a service, a store, an organization, an idea or a place. Branding is all about
creating difference. These can be functional, rational and tangible or symbolic,
emotional and intangible. It is to be noted that brands have deeper meanings for
consumers than the basic characteristics of the product or service being offered.
Major changes occurred in the branding process because of the Internet. The former
model of communication, one-way, was replaced by a two-way communication model.
Now the consumer does not just receive information about the brand, he or she can also
V.-A. BRICU et al.: Characteristics of Brands and Place Branding on the Internet
create or share content. The brands are now trying to build a relationship with the
customer and make emotional connections. Online brands are more transparent.
Therefore, it is crucial that the brand promise is delivered impeccable.
Tourism means making available a diverse range of locations to potential visitors. Even
though relatively new to the filed, the concept of place branding has become a trend
adopted by places all over the world. Place branding refers to enhancing the brand
image of a place in order to gain a large number of advantages: improvement in the
development of a region or country in terms of leisure, tourism, attracting investors,
new residents, new jobs and skilled workers. Place branding does not involve tourism
only. It also involves the economic and socio-political sector as well as the historical
perspective of the place. Because nowadays the most important influence in decision
making in most markets for customers is represented by the information found online,
place brands should use the Internet in order to gain visibility. Websites are
fundamental tools for communication for place brands. For this reason, they should
follow certain rules such as: be consistent in style, colors and language, be organized
and most importantly be attractive.
This work was supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific
Research and Innovation, CCCDI UEFISCDI, project number ERANET-FLAG - FuturICT2.0,
within PNCDI III.
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